Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Replacement Orchids

My new dendrobium victoria reginae as it arrived in the mail

     Faced with the decline of two of my orchids, namely the den victoria reginae and the psychopsis mariposa, I went and ordered two replacements.  I purposefully chose a different vendor for the replacement plants.

One flower bud on the old cane

     The new den victoria reginae is larger, and hopefully hardier.  The largest cane is 1 foot tall, with eleven 2.5-inch leaves.  There is one flower bud on the old cane, but I am keeping my expectations low in regards to flowers.  First, I need this cool-growing orchid to survive the 100F heat wave that is currently heralding the start of summer in NYC (my orchids and I live without air-conditioning).

Dendrobium victoria reginae roots

     I hesitated for a while in deciding how to grow my new dendrobium.  The last one had 'died' (the canes are leafless, but I am still watering periodically in hopes of encouraging some new growth), and I didn't want to repeat my past mistakes.  In the end I decided to go with the mounting route.  My previous den originally declined while I had it potted, and (except for the mishap while I was away on vacation) it seemed to be recovering well while growing on a mount.

     The roots on this den are of decent quality.  There was some ancient sphagnum near the base of the plant (which I removed) and I trimmed off many rotten roots.  However, there are many new roots tips, which which hopefully help the orchid adjust to its new setting.  These tips are an odd bright orange color, for some reason.

mounted dendrobium victoria reginae

    I mounted the orchid on a piece of aquarium wood, and perched it somewhat precariusly against the side of my shelf.  Here's hoping it grows well, because if it doesn't, then I'll sadly have to give up on this beautiful species.

Psychopsis Mendenhall 'Hildos' as it arrived in the mail

     As a travel companion for the dendrobium, I also ordered a replacement psychopsis.  For a mere $10 more in price, this beautiful new plant puts my sickly old psychopsis 'mariposa' to shame.  I absolutely love the deep green mottling on the thick waxy leaves.  There are 5 pseudobulbs, and the largest leaf is 10 inches long.  And as an added bonus, the orchid is in spike.

Healthy Psychopsis mendenhall roots?  Maybe not

     I tipped the orchid out of its pot to check on the roots, and was happy with what I saw.  These roots are healthy and firm, with several growing tips.  Since the media would not fit nicely back into the old pot, I up-potted the orchid into a slightly larger plastic pot, adding some extra media around the sides.  I tried to minimize any disruption to the roots as much as possible.

     If the flowers come out as beautiful as the leaves, then this just may become my new favorite orchid.    


  1. Mark PilonJuly 28, 2012

    Hi Maria

    I have a Dendrobium Victoria Reginae too. I purchased it last year. It was in a pot much like the one seen here and was potted in bark. It had two mature canes. One with two leaves, one with none and a new growth...which was showing no signs of growth, though it should have, since it was not mature. Eventually the leaves turned brown and died but did not fall off. That leads me to think that the leaves falling off of this new one you purchased (which I read about in a later post) may not be an ominous sign. Anyways, the plant is still growing in the original pot and bark and is doing just fine having produced three new growths (I cut off the dead one). I water it every other day. By the way when the "oldest" new growth matured it wasted no time shedding a number of its leaves - many oddly enough near the top of the cane.

    I love this orchid - it produces very nice small flowers and now has flowered on three separate occasions. I've found that of all of the buds that start to swell on their way to flowering only about half make it. The rest shrivel up. I have no idea why.

    A final comment: I don't have to deal with the heat issues that you do. I live in Nova Scotia - the climate here tends to be much cooler and my apartment temperature in the summer rarely gets above 80 so I have no experiences to share regarding how heat affects my plant.


    1. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for the words of hope ;-) My old den victoria-reginae is incontrovertibly dead: the canes rotted from the inside so I threw it away.

      The replacement one is now leafless. I moved it to a windowsill where it can hopefully get more fresh air, but it's not looking promising :-(.

      Do you keep yours consistently moist, or is the 2 days sufficient for it to dry out between waterings?

      I love the flowers too, but unless this one magically recovers, I don't think I'll be trying a third time.

  2. Mark PilonJuly 29, 2012

    Hi Maria

    I would say that I avoid keeping the bark consistently moist. I let at least the top part of the bark dry out and the live roots that I can see turn white by the time the plant gets its next watering (it's in a fairly small square pot under 3 inches and is on a windowsill where it can get a couple hours of sun in the morning). If any of those visible roots still appear moist then I'll hold off watering. Every other day seems to work well.

    Some things I forgot to mention in my earlier comment: I've found out from experience that this orchid does not like too much light. I was surprised to find it grew very well through most of the past winter...when the days are cloudy and short and my apartment is cool and the drafty windows even cooler.

    Having said the above, if you've moved it to the windowsill keep it there and see how it does. My other thought, based on experience is it's better to err on the side of watering too little than too much. In any case now that the leaves are gone I suspect it will probably not need as much water since the stomata on the leaves are a source of water loss for the plant and they are gone.

    I read somewhere in your blog you are getting/have an air conditioner so hopefully that will help too. Good luck!


  3. Mark PilonJuly 29, 2012

    Hi Maria

    You know it's just struck me - I remember reading somewhere about this orchid that it normally has a rest period during the winter at which time watering should be cut back (though mine did not go into a rest period). That being the case it makes me think yours is responding to some stress - probably heat - by shedding its leaves and going into a kind of rest. I wonder if the first one did the same and the rot may have been caused by overwatering.

    One thing to consider is to put the plant in the room where you have your air conditioner and cut back on watering just enough to keep the canes from shrivelling (perhaps watering only one or two times a week?) until whatever is stressing it comes to an end. At that point the plant will let you know by producing a new growth (at least that's the theory). I suspect if you can get the plant through the next two months it will be fine.

    Again, good luck!


    1. Interesting thought. That air conditioner is off most of the time (we're only using it when the temperature get into the high 90s). I might try bringing it in to work, where there is central air. I don't think this is a type of den that usually goes through winter rest, but it very likely needs cooler temps.

      ...At this point, it's so pathetic looking, I'd struggle to call it alive, much less salvageable though :-(